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Hatch vows short-term fix if Supreme Court strikes down ACA subsidies

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Sen. Orrin Hatch will propose a “short-term solution” to help Americans who would lose subsidies if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the availability of financial assistance in the 34 states that haven't established their own exchanges as outlined in the Affordable Care Act.

“That solution will address immediate concerns and set the stage for a more permanent fix in the future,” said Sen. Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, during a speech Monday at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Sen. Hatch didn't offer details on what his proposed short-term fix would entail. But he reiterated that he believes Congress will have to take action to ameliorate the potential harm to Americans if the Supreme Court rules for the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for March 4; a decision is expected by the end of June.

“I don't think we can stand by and simply let the shortcomings of the law harm millions more,” Hatch said. “We need to help the people who will be hurt by losing their subsidies because of Obamacare's broken promises.”

If the Supreme Court invalidates subsidies for non-exchange states, 8.2 million individuals would lose access to subsidies worth $28.8 billion in 2016, according to the Urban Institute. But a new analysis by the Heritage Foundation's Edmund Haislmaier questioned the validity of those claims. Mr. Haislmaier argued that, based on enrollment through HealthCare.gov in the first two years of operations, the actual tally would be closer to 5.5 million individuals losing subsidies.

“Of those I would guess that a fair number, at least half probably, previously had coverage but were forced out of it or priced out of it because of Obamacare,” he said at Monday's event.

Mr. Haislmaier further questioned claims about whether a ruling for the plaintiffs in the King case would result in a major spike in the level of uninsured and skyrocketing premiums in the individual market. The individual market represents only a small fraction of the overall health insurance market, he said.

“This is not a large share of their business,” Mr. Haislmaier said. “I just find some of these claims completely stretched.”

Paul Demko writes for Modern Healthcare, a sister publication of Business Insurance.